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Woman, 19 dogs die in Grand Forks fire

John Stennes / Grand Forks Herald Grand Forks fire department inspectors examine a house Thursday morning on the north end of the city. The house burned late Wednesday night, claiming the life of a woman and 19 dogs. The cause of the fire has not been determined.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Yellow police tape marked off a perimeter around a fire-damaged small single-story gray house in the Riverside Park neighborhood Thursday in Grand Forks.

Fire trucks and police cars were parked nearby as neighbors watched firefighters process the grim scene.

An elderly Grand Forks woman died in a fire late Wednesday night that gutted the house at Fenton Avenue and North Fifth Street north of Gateway Drive and several blocks east of Home of Economy.

The name of the victim has not yet been released pending notification of family members. The cause of her death has not been determined. The cause of the fire still is under investigation.

Firefighters also found 19 small dogs dead at the scene, according to Rob Corbett, the battalion chief on duty at the Grand Forks Fire Department. The dogs appeared to have perished as a result of the fire.

Corbett said Thursday afternoon firefighters still were sifting through rubble at the scene and it was possible the bodies of more dogs could be found.

"This is by far the worst (fire) I've been at," said Grand Forks Fire Marshal Terry Wynne, who is in his 13th year with the fire department. "This is a tragedy that

shouldn't have happened."

Neighbors said the victim was friendly but kept to herself and stayed inside most of the time. She used a scooter to get around but could walk.

"It's too bad," said one neighbor, who declined to be identified.

The victim was the only person home when the fire started.

Wynne said the victim's daughter, who also lives at the home, and her granddaughter returned to the house shortly before midnight Wednesday night and saw smoke coming out of the house.

But Wynne said the doorknob on the metal front door was too hot, and the daughter and granddaughter were unable to reach the victim. He said the granddaughter reported the fire.

The Grand Forks Fire Department was dispatched to the house after receiving a call at 11:48 p.m. Wednesday night. Neighbors described seeing flames in the front window and smoke billowing out of the house about midnight.